Last week, after a federal jury of 12 was hopelessly deadlocked, the bribery case against Senator Robert Menendez was declared a mistrial by a Newark judge.
To the great dismay of federal prosecutors, for now the New Jersey Democrat will avoid both prison and losing his seat on the Senate.
Just before 1 p.m. on Thursday, November 16, Judge William Walls said, “I find you are unable to reach a verdict and that further deliberations are futile. There is no alternative but to declare a mistrial.”
A spokesman for the Washington, DC office in charge of the case wouldn’t comment on whether the Department of Justice would be exercising it right to retry the case. The spokesman did say, “The department will carefully consider next steps in this important matter and report to the court at the appropriate time.”.
Some members of the jury said that the prosecution’s case was too weak for a conviction.
A 49-year-old equipment operator from Roxbury, NJ, who was a juror, Ed Norris, told The Post that 10 out of the 12 people on the jury wanted to acquit the senator on all counts due to the prosecution’s lack of a “smoking gun,” as well as most of the evidence being circumstantial.
On his way leaving the court on Thursday, Norris told reporters, “I thought he was not guilty. I don’t think the government proved it. There is no smoking gun in this case.”
The 63-year-old Menendez gave an emotional speech outside the courthouse. He thanked his supporters who testified on his behalf, including fellow Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Then he warned those against him and accused the feds of being racist.
Menendez said, “To those who were digging my political grave so they could jump into my seat, I know who you are and I won’t forget you. Certain elements of the FBI and of our state cannot understand, or even worse, accept that the Latino kid from Union City and Hudson County can grow up to be a United States senator and be honest.”
According to The Post, “Prosecutors spent weeks trying to prove Menendez accepted lavish bribes — including all-expense-paid vacations and private flights — from his co-defendant Salomon Melgen. In exchange, they argued Menendez used the power of his office to advocate for Melgen, including securing visas for Melgen’s young girlfriends and helping the doctor with an $8.9 million billing dispute with Medicare. Defense lawyers argued the gifts and favors were the result of the men’s 20-year friendship, not bribery. It was an argument that resonated with some jurors, including Norris.”
Outside of court, Norris said, “I totally thought they were friends. Longtime friends.”
The jury began its deliberations for the first time on November 6, after a two-month long trial. On Monday, November 13, the jurors were told to start anew after an alternate came to replace Arroyo-Maultsby.
By Mark Snyder